What is a Theme in Of Mice and Men – 2023

What is a theme in Of Mice and Men Of Mice and Men? Of Mice and Men is a novella written by John Steinbeck that explores various themes such as loneliness, friendship, the corrupting nature of power, and the American Dream.

The story follows two friends, George Milton and Lennie Small, who are working as ranch workers during the Great Depression. As they move from place to place in search of work, they encounter different characters and experiences that highlight the various themes in the novella.

Understanding Themes

In literature, a theme refers to the central idea or message that the author conveys through the characters, plot, and setting. It’s the underlying meaning that emerges as the story progresses, and it’s bigger than any individual character or event.

Themes are often universal and can be applied to other works of literature or to real-life situations.

In the novella Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, a prominent theme is the American Dream and its impossibility for the characters. George and Lennie, in particular, have a dream of owning a piece of land and farming it, but their circumstances make this goal unachievable.

The theme of the American Dream reveals the harsh reality of the Great Depression and how it affected people’s lives and aspirations.

Another theme in Of Mice and Men is loneliness and isolation. Many characters, such as Crooks and Curley’s wife, are marginalized and excluded from the social group.

Characters’ loneliness is a result of the broken relationships in their lives or their inability to form deep connections with others. This theme highlights the difficulty of human connections and how it affects people’s emotional and mental well-being.

Other themes that emerge in Of Mice and Men include power and powerlessness, friendship, cruelty, and compassion. Through these themes, John Steinbeck creates a nuanced and complex picture of the human experience.

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What is a Theme in Of Mice and Men?

Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, is a novella that explores various themes through the experiences of its main characters, George Milton and Lennie Small. A theme is a central, unifying idea that emerges as the characters pursue their goals.

In this novel, the main themes are dreams, loneliness, and companionship.


The theme of dreams is a pervasive one in Of Mice and Men, as each character has their own dreams and aspirations. George and Lennie dream of owning their own farm one day, Candy dreams of becoming part of George and Lennie’s plan, and Curley’s wife dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress.

However, these dreams all ultimately go unfulfilled, as the harsh realities of life during the Great Depression make them impossible to achieve. The theme of dreams therefore illustrates the tension between hope and reality, and how the American Dream can be an impossible ideal for many.


Another central theme in Of Mice and Men is loneliness. The novel portrays the loneliness of the itinerant workers living on the ranch, all of whom are isolated from society and each other.

George is lonely in his role as caretaker for Lennie, Curley’s wife is lonely in her unhappy marriage, and Candy is lonely as an old man with a crippled hand. This theme highlights the human need for companionship and the difficulties that arise when this need goes unfulfilled.


The theme of companionship is closely linked to that of loneliness, as it highlights the positive effects of human connection. Throughout the novel, various forms of companionship are explored, including the friendship between George and Lennie, the brief camaraderie between the ranch workers, and even the forbidden relationship between Curley’s wife and Lennie.

These relationships illustrate the importance of camaraderie and how it can provide solace and support for those who would otherwise be alone.

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Other Significant Themes

The American Dream

The concept of the American Dream is a significant theme in Of Mice and Men. It represents the idea that in America, anyone can achieve wealth and success through hard work and determination.

George and Lennie, just like any other working-class Americans, are in pursuit of the American Dream. They dream of owning a farm, living off the land, and being their own bosses.

It is this dream that motivates them to continue moving from one ranch to another, looking for work and saving up their money. However, the reality is much harsher than their dream.

Throughout their journey, George and Lennie encounter various obstacles that prevent them from achieving their dream, such as discrimination, lack of opportunities, and their own personal limitations. The portrayal of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men reflects the disillusionment that many Americans felt during the Great Depression.

Male Friendship

Male friendship is another important theme in Of Mice and Men. The bond between George and Lennie is an example of genuine male friendship.

Despite their differences, they rely on each other for companionship and support. Their friendship is based on trust, loyalty, and shared experiences.

Through their interactions, Steinbeck explores the complexities of male friendship and how it can sustain or disrupt individual relationships. The theme of male friendship in Of Mice and Men underscores the idea that human connection, especially in times of adversity, can provide solace and meaning.

Power Dynamics

The power dynamics between characters in Of Mice and Men is a pervasive theme. The characters’ relative power positions shape the way they interact with one another and influence the outcomes of their actions.

The most significant power dynamic is that between George and Lennie, where George holds more power due to his superior intelligence, while Lennie is dependent on George for guidance and protection. Other power dynamics include those between the ranch workers and the boss, Curley and his wife, and Candy and his dog.

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Through these power dynamics, Steinbeck explores how power can corrupt or liberate individuals, and how it can ultimately lead to tragedy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the major themes in Of Mice and Men?

The major themes in Of Mice and Men are dreams, loneliness, and companionship.

How do the themes in the novel relate to the time period in which it was written?

The themes of loneliness and dreams reflect the experiences of many Americans who were struggling during the Great Depression. The search for companionship and a better life is a universal concern, but it was especially pressing during this time of economic hardship.

What is the significance of the novel's themes in today's society?

The themes of loneliness, dreams, and companionship are still relevant in today's society. Many people still struggle with loneliness, and the pursuit of dreams remains a central part of the human experience. The importance of companionship and community is also still highly valued.


In conclusion, the main themes in Of Mice and Men are dreams, loneliness, and companionship. Each character is affected by these themes, from George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm to Curley’s wife’s yearning for companionship.

The novella explores the isolation and loneliness experienced during the Great Depression, while highlighting the importance of relationships and companionship. Steinbeck’s use of characterization and prose effectively convey these themes, making Of Mice and Men a powerful and impactful work of literature.


Jonathan B. Delfs

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